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August 23, 2012

Golson earns first shot

Everett Golson walked into the Notre Dame locker room Thursday morning, the day after Brian Kelly quietly told the sophomore he'd won the starting quarterback job. Golson wanted to see if Kelly had kept up his end of a bargain dating back to when the quarterback enrolled last winter.

Golson said Kelly had promised a helmet visor, but only after he'd earned the starting job. Turns out the first morning of Golson's starting run included a false start.

"I woke up this morning and before class I came over here just hoping to see the visor on the helmet but it wasn't there so I was a little down today," Golson said. "I came back in (for practice) and it was just there. I was kind of happy about that."

The fashion statement represented about the only relief Golson felt after beating out Andrew Hendrix for the starting job with Gunner Kiel and the suspended Tommy Rees off the pace.

"Obviously I'm happy about it, but I just want to thank my teammates and also the other quarterbacks for just being there and pushing each other," Golson said. "I felt that I wouldn't reach the potential or reach where I've come if it wasn't for Andrew, Gunner and Tommy out there just helping me."

Golson watched from the sidelines last September when opening day starter Dayne Crist didn't last a half, benched for Rees. Kelly hasn't started a quarterback for a full season since he was at Central Michigan. Golson knows winning the job mainly means earning the opportunity to take the first snap.

"It definitely means a lot, but I know with this comes a lot of responsibility so I'm not going to rejoice in it," Golson said. "I'm happy about it, but I also understand it's a time to go to work right now, so my main focus is on Navy and just going to work."

Barring injury, it's easy to forecast Golson bucking Kelly's trend of quarterback rotation. Kelly said he expects Golson to play the full game against Navy with practice reps now split 70-30 in the sophomore favor. Unlike last year when Hendrix represented a changeup to Rees, Notre Dame's offense wouldn't change between Golson and Hendrix.

Golson also represents Kelly's first real quarterback recruit, the transition addition of Luke Massa aside. To that end, Kelly sees a quarterback who can let him get back to calling plays from the book that got the coach hired in South Bend.

"So Everett can definitely play in the kind of offense that I wanna play: aggressive, spreading the field, being aggressive, pushing the ball vertically as well as controlling the line of scrimmage," Kelly said. "So without question we would not have named him a starter unless we felt like this was the next step towards moving our program."

Kelly said the keys to Golson winning the job came from preparation, the sophomore grasping where to put the football and when. Golson has been open throughout camp that he's improved his film room habits, something that's shown the past two weeks.

Kelly said Golson has thrown three interceptions all camp.

"The game is really, really hard, and young kids have got to stay focused and if he stays focused he's not gonna be that guy that turns the football over," Kelly said. "It was tough, it was a tough decision, but Everett clearly won the starting job and he'll get to start against Navy."

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